Did We All Miss The Arrival of Web 3.0?

When I first started following the concept of Web 3.0, every article about the semantic web, or the merging of the current web with virtual worlds, or cloud computing mentioned that we were a few years away from those technologies “arriving.”  Well, it’s been a few years and we are still being told “a few more years.”  Web 3.0 is part of the way here, but mostly still down the road.

But what if Web 3.0 is already here?  Web 2.0 was just a cutesy term used to refer to a new way that users interacted with web sites.  It was nothing really new in all actuality – it was just that our expectations as web surfers changed.  And maybe another shift has occurred, and we are already in Web 3.0 and haven’t noticed it.

Or maybe someone else has noticed it, and I just haven’t read their work.  Ever since Wikipedia unwisely decided to delete the Web3.0 page off of their site for stupid reasons, I haven’t found a better place to find a good over view of all the thinking on Web 3.0.

But let’s step back a second and look at the history of how the web developed from an end-user perspective:

In the beginning, there was nothingness in the digital universe.  Petty humans had to go get information, instead of having it delivered to them.  The Great Webmaster in the Sky said “let there be great silos of information that send all forms of information to people!” and it was so.  “These silos will be guarded by my prophets, the web designers. The designers will let people in to the silos, but not let these people change anything unless they join My secret html society.”  And there was much rejoicing – because let’s face it, who wanted to bother with html?

Before long, the prophets of the Great Webmaster were overwhelmed  by the demand for more and more silos.  The Great Webmaster saw that this was not good.  “I will make it so that everyone can create their own silo if they choose – or they can go in and add to the silos of others.  I shall create embed codes and RSS feeds and give all silos even greater powers to communicate.  I will call this glorious new vision ‘Web 2.0.'” And it was so.  And there was much rejoicing.

Then the Great Webmaster noticed that the silos were still silos.  People could communicate and add to each others silos, but they still mostly kept inside their own silo. The Great Webmaster decided that it was not good for all people to still be holed up in personal silos.  “Let there be large, open areas for people to socialize and interact without walls.  Let there be SuperPokes and Mafia wars.  In some areas, let the communication be limited to 140 characters, so the more verbose of my prophets will not continue to bore the rest of the world to sleep.” And it was so.  “I will not give this one a name, so that the fuddy-duddies that freaked out over ‘Web2.0′ won’t get their knickers in a wad and maybe we can all move forward.” And there was much rejoicing.

All kidding aside, I think that the differences between FaceBook and MySpace, or even between Twitter and Blogs may be signaling another shift in web expectations.  Let me explain.  MySpace is social, but it still does so from one silo to another – the focus is really on “your” MySpace page.   Sure, when you sign in, you see a control panel that gives you some interaction with friends, but the main focus was on setting up your area.  FaceBook is different – it turned that concept inside out.  When you sign in, the control panel is all you really care about.  Sure, people can see a wall and all that – but the focus is on the interactions.  Most people get by fine without ever even thinking about what their public page looks like.

With blogs, the focus is also on the blog itself.  Sure, you can go and comment on other blogs, but the focus is still on building your own personal silo of information.  You can go visit other silos, but you still get the sense of leaving your silo to go there.  Twitter also tears down those walls – all of your friends’ updates are sent to you, either online or on your mobile or where ever. In reality, most Web 2.0 sites are about direct communication (like Skype), or setting up your own personal mini-silo and then communicating between them.

So, where Web 1.0 was about building silos of information controlled by a select few, Web 2.0 was about giving people the ability to build their own silos and let friends or customers contribute to the content in those silos.  Maybe Web 3.0 is really about tearing down the silos and building communities?  Maybe we need that before we are really, truly ready for virtual worlds and cloud computing?

If Web 1.0 was the “read-only” web, and Web 2.0 was the “read-write” web – maybe Web 3.0 is really about the “socialize” web.  In many ways, one could argue that what I am saying about the “socialize” web is really just the full realization of Web 2.0.  Of course, that is what they also said about Web 2.0 (“it is really just the full realization of the Web itself”).

But, maybe this could also explain why sites like FaceBook and Twitter are taking off in popularity, and other sites like Ning and Yammer (that do the same basic things) are still not catching on as well.  Maybe it is just market saturation, or maybe there really is a shift away from Web 2.0 that we haven’t noticed yet.  Or maybe someone else has and I am just blabbering about something someone else already came up with.

Or maybe I have a short attention span and have grown bored of Web 2.0.  It had it’s five minutes – on to the next version!

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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